Park Service removes garbage cans at Ocean Beach, calls it “experiment”

The piled up trash next to a stairwell where cans were removed

The piled up trash next to a stairwell where cans were removed

There’s been a buzz recently in the outer Richmond about a new change at Ocean Beach – no garbage cans.

Recently, all of the garbage cans along the first 1/3 mile of the Ocean Beach promenade, stairwells 1-14, were removed.

An interesting move considering that garbage has always been a problem at Ocean Beach. Visit during any nice weather day and the brown cans posted at each stairwell are filled to the brim and surrounded by runover waste.

The National Park Service, who is responsible for Ocean Beach, thinks the solution is to remove the garbage cans in an effort to re-educate visitors on how to take care of the beach.

“We are working on a couple of experiments that would encourage visitors to pack in & pack out. As well, we are hoping to save staff time and allow them to focus on other high impact areas,” said Dan Collman, National Parks Service representative to a reader who inquired about the change.

Along the stretch of can-less promenade, there are only two signs explaining the lack of receptacles. The signs ask “please be patient with us while we try this out”.

The NPS also has an aesthetic reason for the change in policy.

“Not to mention how nice the historic sea wall looks without trash cans,” Collman wrote in his email.

Trash left at a stairwell where there used to be garbage cans

Trash left at a stairwell where there used to be garbage cans

Trash Still Building Up

So is it working? We headed out to Ocean Beach on Sunday morning to see if people were really packing everything in and out between stairwells 1 and 14.

Nearly every stairwell had some debris nearby, and a few of them had piles of garbage tucked up in the corners.

And further down the beach, where trash cans still exist, the usual overflow was in effect.

NPS Continues to Claim Lack of Resources

The National Park Service has a reputation for complaining about their lack of resources to care for Ocean Beach.

There has been a long brewing controversy over the fires on Ocean Beach, with beach visitors in favor of them and the Park Service not due to the cleanup and people’s inability to follow the rules when having fires.

Originally the NPS proposed banning campfires altogether, but after uproar from the community, is now proposing a revised plan that includes a permit system, seasonal restrictions, and a partnership with SF Rec & Park for maintenance. The public comment period on the new plan closes on November 20.

Rather than address the garbage issue at Ocean Beach with a real solution – like larger garbage cans – the NPS has chosen to throw their hands up and cast blame on beach visitors for the problem.

Reader SierraJeff said it well in a comment earlier this year about the Park Service’s beach fire plan.

“[The NPS is] trying to treat a very heavily visited URBAN park the same way it treats Yosemite back country. The problem with that is that the GGNRA was never intended to be a wilderness, a Yosemite. I think it was a mistake to place all this land under federal control to begin with, but that doesn’t mean we have to roll over just because some D.C. bureaucrat can’t wrap their head around the fact that San Franciscans have the gall of wanting to actually use their parks for a wide variety of recreation.”

The NPS has yet to define what they consider a successful outcome of their garbage-can-free experiment. Is it some waste? No waste? The latter seems completely unrealistic.

Not providing a way for the thousands of daily visitors to the north end of the beach to dispose of their waste is short-sighted and lazy on the part of the NPS.

“If this totally fails, we’ll address it immediately,” NPS spokesman Dan Collman wrote in an email.

What do you think, readers? Is the experiment worth continuing or has it already failed?

Sarah B.

More Coverage:
A Really Dumb Experiment is Happening Out at Ocean Beach – SFWeekly
In Confusing Bid To Reduce Litter, National Park Service Pulls Ocean Beach Trash Cans – SFist
Park Officials Remove Trash Cans From Ocean Beach To Curb Littering – CBS SF Bay Area
Park Officials Hope Removing Trash Cans Will Help Keep Ocean Beach Clean – NBC Bay Area
To reduce Ocean Beach trash, Park Service removes garbage bins – SFGate


Dog walkers leave their poop bags where cans used to be

Dog walkers leave their poop bags where cans used to be

The usual scene on the Ocean Beach promenade - undersized garbage cans that can't handle the demand.

The usual scene on the Ocean Beach promenade – undersized garbage cans that can’t handle the demand.

One of two signs posted along the 1/3 mile stretch where the garbage cans were removed.

One of two signs posted along the 1/3 mile stretch where the garbage cans were removed.

The "nice looking" historic sea wall at Ocean Beach

The “nice looking” historic sea wall at Ocean Beach


  1. That “brilliant” idea was already tried by gavin newsom and look how well *that* went….

  2. In many ways I think the San Francisco should take back Ocean Beach. I for one would vote for a small increase in some tax to finance an “Ocean Beach Only Management Department” of a dozen people to keep it clean, in repair, and accessible to all for all Urban Recreational pursuits. I would not give it to Park and Rec as they would bleed any tax for other uses.

  3. *blush*, gosh thanks for the quote 🙂

    And before I saw my name in lights, I was about to say the same thing as @JD – the “experiment” that should end here is NPS control of Ocean Beach (and Lands End, while we’re at it) – restore Ocean Beach and Land’s End to the City, so the people of the City can use it the way they want (and can hold local bureaucrats directly accountable for problems).

  4. That is one of the dumbest ideas I’ve heard in a long time. The quoted reader is exactly right that our huge, popular urban beachfront is not in any way analogous to the backcountry, where a “pack it in, pack it out” ethos is entirely appropriate, and it’s boneheaded ideas like this, their fire pit policy, and continued dog rule nonsense that lead me to believe that the NPS should stick to their core competency of managing wilderness, and leave the urban spaces to people/groups who have even a tiny idea of how cities actually function.

  5. Good luck with that….. And I never understood why people go to a nice place, because it is a nice place, and leave there trash there to make it look awful. “Animals” is not even a fitting word- since animals do not leave un bio-degradable trash behind.

  6. IMO this is a very stupid idea. And I really don’t think the Park Service has anything altruistic in mind when they do this. I just used one of those garbage cans the other day when I took a walk to the beach and needed a way to dispose of a coffee cup, which I had carried down the beach with me from Java Beach tp the Cliff House area on a stroll. Put the damn pails back, and COME AROUND to pick up the trash more often when needed! That will show tourists that San Francisco knows how to take care of itself and is worth visiting. I’ve called the Park Service in the past regarding issues on the Lands End trail and was actually “yelled at” one time last year by some boor on the phone who informed me that their budget had been cut and therefore they “weren’t going to take care of anything.” To equate this urban beach with Big Sur back country (pack in/pack out) is absurd and a poor excuse to do less and less on Fed managed spaces. Shame on them.

  7. That is ridiculous. Removing garbage cans is like putting putting you head in the sand and pretending that there is no garbage. What is wrong with NPS? Isn’t our city dirty enough and full of trash? We don’t need fewer garbage cans we need more garbage cans. Idiots!

  8. Wow, just wow! It’s like they’ve never even been there before. Ocean Beach (often inexplicably to me) is used by residents and out-of-towners alike to picnic, play, watch the sunset, walk dogs etc. Is a tourist supposed to take their trash back to their hotel? Are visitors from other parts of the city supposed to carry bags of trash and recycling back to their homes on the bus? Are dog owners supposed to throw bags of poop in the back of the car until they get home??? I think OB is relatively clean actually and I always pick up trash when I walk my dogs just to do my part but usually it’s not that bad. This can only be a complete disaster and and I agree, more cans and more collection is the way to go!

  9. Ha ha ha “Claim Lack of Resources”… everyone knows they have more funding than they could possibly know what to do with. In all seriousness, why not try this? It’s not like it can’t be undone, it’s not like what they were doing was working, why the negativity towards trying something different?

  10. So I asked a ranger about the experiment yesterday. He said, in so many words (that seemed to me to be talking points the NPS told him to share) there are laws that require visitors to pack garbage out of National Parks. I said, yes, I am aware of that law. For places like Yosemite and Yellowstone. The GGNRA is a national recreational area, in a major urban city, not a “national park.” He said he had heard a lot of complaints and agreed the new experiment did not seem like a good idea. I asked him to tell his supervisors that the public is not happy. He suggested I send an email, though he could not give me a name of a person to whom the email should be directed. In fact, I had already emailed Eric Mar, Ed Lee, Feinstein, Boxer, Speier (b/c she is such a great advocate for human and companion animal access to the GGNRA) and Leno about this ridiculous experiment. Over the weekend, it occurred to me that this experiment is part of the NPS’s ongoing efforts to eradicate humans and their companion animals from Ocean Beach and the GGNRA–efforts that have been underway for years in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The fact they removed the cans from stairwell 1-16 or so–roughly coinciding with the area of the beach that allows off-leash dogs–does not seem coincidental to me. The garbage piled at every stairwell and blowing around the neighborhood adds to the narrative that humans and their companion animals just sully OB. I noticed yesterday that the can outside Wise Surboards was overflowing–no doubt from people who came up from the beach and didn’t want to litter, but had nowhere to throw trash. I occasionally take extra bags with me when I walk my dog on the beach (as do other dog owners) to pick up trash left by folks who can’t even bother to carry it up the stairs to the trash cans on the sidewalk–am I supposed to pack that out to my home? And yes, all that uncontained garbage will no doubt be welcomed by our local raccoon packs. Wow.

  11. While the apparent incompetence of the big NPS in this instance will likely explode the SFGate comments section (when it gets posted there) and cause many to vow to switch their voter registration from Dem to GOP, i welcome this experiment. It is proof that they are fast acting and forward thinking, concerned with aesthetics, and actively thinking about the situation at Ocean Beach, which isn’t really acceptable as it is.

  12. ^It beats neglect, is my point. Any attention to the beach is good news, IMO. I am for experimenting with different things to see how they work.

  13. if even one person got cited once for leaving trash, that would make this an experiment.

    otherwise, it is a rubbish idea.

  14. Get the address for Dan Collman, National Parks Service representative and leave your trash at his house.

  15. Why not put a big dumpster or two in the parking lot? Then someone in a big truck can come by and get all the trash at once instead of the labor-intensive method of emptying a dozen trashcans. Maybe get one of those dumpsters with a locked lid and smaller trash holes so people don’t dump their box springs and whatnot in there. Problem solved.

    I also find that the feds have a hard time figuring out where their jurisdiction starts and where it ends. I live on lower great highway and had to call the cops once because a drunk driver continued westbound on a street and jumped the curb between lower and upper great highway. They never really settled on whether it was a City issue or CHP issue and eventually the drunkard rocked his car back and forth, got it unstuck, and headed out. I ended up saying ‘thanks’ to whoever I was on the phone with (don’t remember, was passed back and forth to the CHP and back a couple times) and hung up. For that reason alone I’d vote to return this part of the GGNRA to the city.

  16. I can appreciate the intent, but as a frequent goer at Ocean Beach with my dog, I am not willing to ‘pack out’ my dog’s bags of poop. I can imagine that this will only lead to a dirtier beach.

  17. Standing on the wall looking west there is emptiness, but turning around and looking east just across the street, I see 5 million people. Don’t be in denial, bring the cans back.

  18. To me a far more easy solution would be to replace the existing trash cans with larger, updated bins that can accommodate the trash that will accumulate over the weekend and make it easier to be collected OR have large dumpsters in the parking lot. The existing cumbersome trash cans that overfill easy are outdated. The weather has evolved to being warmer year round which increases beach traffic during the off season. We cannot assume that everyone going to the beach is even aware of the “leave the place like you found it’ motto of our national parks, that the beach falls under this realm or understands the behind the scenes bureaucracy that is going on. We have a mix of locals and tourists that frequent the beaches. They are relying on that everyone that visits the beach is in a car which is not the case at all. Removing the bins entirely is not the solution.

  19. Sure, its an “experiment”. And how are they proposing to evaluate the results? How do we know if the experiment is a success? There appears to have been no planning or forethought put into this- the signs appeared fours days after the cans were removed. Are they counting garbage on the beach before and after? Surveying users? I’m sure there is nothing like that…

    Every other urban beach in the world has *more* trash cans, not less. In fact, many places even put garbage cans out on the beach itself where the garbage is generated. Picture Huntington Beach, Copacobana, Miami South Beach, etc etc. Now no one wants to turn Ocean Beach into South Beach 🙂 but you have to accept the reality of operating a beach in a major city and tourist destination.

  20. Yep, no trash cans seem more than illogical, it’s ridiculous. I think the experiment will soon be abandoned, not to worry. I have volunteered once a month for 14 years at a site under the auspices of both the NPS and the GGNRA. The missions of both agencies are, in some respect, at odds (NPS=preservation; GGNRA=recreation. You can imagine the conflicts). All parks and preserved areas in the Bay Area are urban-influenced. I’m no apologist for the NPS (or the GGNRA, for that matter), but I do have a couple of comments on Sarah’s editorial.
    * You mention people’s “inability” to follow beach fire rules. The problem is people’s unwillingness, not their inability. Another issue, which you didn’t mention but which was a big deal a few years ago when the beach fire supporters vs nearby residents and the NPS squared off, were health concerns caused by smoke from the treated wood that people were burning.
    * You say the NPS “has chosen to throw their hands up and cast blame on beach visitors for the problem.” I say, come on now. Who do you think is to blame for the trash, the park rangers? the gulls? the seals? If visitors didn’t create garbage there would be no trash and therefore no need for trash cans. The NPS isn’t “throwing their hands up,” they’re conducting an experiment. A ridiculous one, to be sure, and if they don’t bring back the cans, then I’ll agree with you that they’ve thrown their hands up. The question I’d have asked is, how long have you scheduled to run this experiment? If it’s open-ended, bad news. Do you know?

  21. Utterly baffling and shortsighted. As is evident in GG Park, where trash cans have been dramatically reduced in numbers, people are willing to carry garbage only so far n then they leave it in a “convenient” spot. Am on board with idea of making dumpsters available to encourage people to clean up beach. Doubt many otherwise inclined to pick upbrubbish are going to bother if they are expected to bring it home–wherever home is. The truly conscientious might dump their garbage in the Safewy lot or at the Beach Chalet. Hardly a solution either.

  22. Re. “…cause many to vow to switch their voter registration from Dem to GOP…” I assume that was tongue and cheek; it is kind of hilarious that people that are so disgusted with public services so often favor the GOP who, given their druthers, would simply eliminate all public services (and would, e.g., turn ocean beach over to the Koch brothers who would certainly know what to do with it).

  23. The NPS has larger cans in other locations. I don’t see why they can’t place larger containers at Ocean Beach. I drive by every other day, and the beach is always an active attraction for our city. Please NPS give a little more attention to this lovely space.

  24. Since it appears there is another “Renee,” I’m changing my user name; my post was the first one under “Renee,” and described a conversation with a ranger. While I do agree with a few of the other Renee’s points, I part ways with her on the notion that the NPS has some difficulty overseeing a National Recreation Area rather than a National Park. The NPS oversees the GGNRA and has been charged with that task since the GGNRA came into existence as an “urban park” in the 70s. http://www.nps.gov/goga/learn/historyculture/creation-of-golden-gate-national-recreation-area.htm More recently, the NPS and other interested parties have been endeavoring to push the GGNRA into more highly regulated National Park territory for years. I disagree that this is due to some difficulty on their part in keeping the missions and recreational goals of the two designations separate, I feel it is an ongoing and conscious effort to turn Muir Beach, Ocean Beach, and the GGNRA as a whole, into a National Park from which companion animals can be banned, human activity highly regulated and from which trash must be packed out.

  25. Oh come on, who cares about the “historic” sea wall, there’s a giant garbage gyre in the middle of the Pacific. Let’s prevent more garbage from getting on the beach and into the sea, even if it means big brutish trashcans.

    And no, I don’t think the city should take over OB, they’d mismanage it.

  26. A lot of seemingly valid points raised here, and I’m not at all surprised that such a simple issue turns into such a complicated debate in which the responsibility is pushed back and forth because no one wants to say, “You know what, it’s me. I’m responsible.” So, please allow me to start.
    If I am willing to go somewhere and create a mess, it is only practical that I should also be willing to clean it up. Why? Simple – BECAUSE I’M THE ONE WHO PUT IT THERE.
    Choosing to leave my garbage at the steps of the beach instead of in the sand changes nothing about my behavior; I’ve chosen to cantaminate the area either because I don’t care or I’m not willing to accept the responsibility of my own actions – that it was me who chose to go there and either leave my mess behind or take it with me.
    Bottom line, it is up to everyone – as individuals – to clean up the mess we would otherwise leave behind. Either chose to care or don’t, but don’t complain when you come back to that place you once enjoyed and see it defaced by the garbage you left behind.

  27. The fact that we are in urban setting rather than the backwoods should make it easier for people to clean up their trash. The proximity of the beach to a large population center should not increase our tolerance for the trashing of a natural area. The solution is not to provide larger trash cans, but to reduce the amount of waste that is generated overall. And if the idea of carrying your waste back with you grosses out, get a double bag.

  28. Thank you for this article. The need for adequate well-located trash receptacles is so obvious as to be beyond doubt or argument. Frankly, that the GGNRA chose to try this stunt should, unfortunately, inform you as to the lack of regard, lack of respect, and lack of concern that the GGNRA has for its patrons.

  29. Very insane comments as usual around these types of issues – everything from the ‘let’s target someone from the NPS personally for this relatively inoffensive attempt to do something positive’ to ‘I refuse to take my dog’s crap with me back to the house.’ I guess they tried this at Baker Beach and it worked. Loosen up, people.

  30. I’d also add that I’m glad the new permit process might eliminate some of the trashier people who come out to the beach. These guys who were interviewed on KPIX Nightbeat tonight were basically saying ‘nobody’s going to pack out their trash,’ and it was fairly clear they were talking about themselves. I’m tired of the human garbage who can’t be bothered to deal with their stack of pizza boxes and beer cans, or their dog shit or whatever it is, like full grown adults. This is national park land, people – think Yosemite, not Venice. It should be pristine like the state’s best most untouched beaches, though still enjoyed by all. I think it’s cool that attention is coming to the beach and wish so many wouldn’t be so cynical and so quick to jump into the trap of denouncing (in very extreme ways, I might add) what is an honest attempt to do better.

  31. The NPS’ administration of Ocean Beach and SF’s administration of the parking lots are horrific and have been for years. The NPS wants to treat the beach as a natural wilderness area, ignoring the obvious fact that it is an URBAN beach serving about 1 million people within 7 miles and millions more within an hour drive! The uninspiring Ocean Beach ‘Master Plan’ for improving the area is set on a 40-50 year time scale. Ridiculous. NPS’ priorities are elsewhere and are largely political. Sad but true.

  32. The level of anger and disparagement against the removal of the trash bins, and those that ordered the removal of them, is surprising. I regularly participate in the Ocean Beach cleanups every third Saturday. My daughters and I pick up all kinds of trash, mostly plastic and cigarette butts, from the sand, and also on the promenade. The garbage cans are disgusting and overflowing. They make the promenade look disgusting. The overflowing trash blows all around the promenade, and back onto the beach at times. So in my opinion, there is a substantial problem. I’m not saying taking away the bins is the optimum solution…I don’t know. But I understand why it could be effective. I’m not ready to demonize the administrators of this idea. This is how government should work, right? We recognize a problem, we try to come up with a solution. If it doesn’t work, we try something else. I agree with one posting who said that we should all be more conscious of hauling our trash out.

  33. I totally agree with Hans, here. I am mystified by the type of anger and paranoia that something that is obviously an attempt to make the area better has evoked. The worst thing in my opinion is more of the same. I wouldn’t particularly want to see big dumpsters there, either. Really, what’s the harm, folks?

  34. well, for one thing all the photos in this posting shows what is happening not that the cans are gone. People are just leaving everything in tucked away corners. When Dolores Park was being overrun with trash the city added more cans and more collection to keep up with demand. The idea that every single person visiting ocean beach will start carting their trash out is optimistic at best. Tax paying citizens should be able to expect some practical infrastructure in their recreation areas (urban areas in particular) that allows for disposal and collection of trash and recycling…plain and simple.

  35. If the garbage cans are overflowing wouldn’t it be smarter to have larger garbage cans? The wood boxes are too large to fit in a normal garbage can and one party will cause an overflow. How about a few dumpsters instead?

  36. How about people just stop creating so much garbage. Do you really need to bring an entire stack of pizzas and boxes and boxes of beer to the beach, with no plan except to leave it 50 yards from where you consumed it? It’s 2015, not 1975. People can be expected to plan a little. I’m not for pandering to the trashier elements. To me the bags left where the cans used to be look no worse than the cans with bags and crap scattered around them.

  37. I am willing to be patient for a few months to see if the trash can removal changes the behavior of beach and promenade patrons. It may be that most Americans simply cannot be expected to take responsibility to clean up after themselves. This kind of policy may be difficult to implement in a country which generates so much trash (I’m guilty of that as much as anyone). I’m hopeful for the future because young people are being taught this kind of responsibility.

  38. This beach could use more cans not NO CAN’s. Santa Monica beach is nice and clean because there are so many cans to put trash into. In comparison, SF’s Ocean beach looks like a dump. In addition, beaches in LA all have lots of clean, usable restrooms. Why can’t SF have nice restrooms and garbage cans?

    Santa Monica Beach

  39. I don’t know if I really dig the discarded oil cans look. Ocean Beach should be pristine – worthy of a national park.

  40. @Ed – therein lies the problem, because to most people commenting on here, they have the gall to think that an urban beach right next to dense residential development should actually be used like an urban beach, and not treated like in a manner identical to Drake’s Beach up at Point Reyes where there are about 25 people on a given day.

  41. @SierraJeff: It’s not an urban beach, it’s national parkland at the edge of a city. We should pursue the ideal (Drake’s Bay) rather than accept or expectmore of the same. Who doesn’t want a pristine beach as an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city? If it takes more staffing so be it – totally accomplishable, as long as we raise our expectations.

  42. Well, actually it is not a national park. It is a national recreation area. There is a difference, though the NPS is trying to eliminate any distinction. See the posting on nextdoor.com for the outer richmond district from the NPS. And note how they refer to OB as the “park.” Prepare for increased limitations on companion animal access, human access and limited uses and access, consistent with the ruled imposed on a national park. If you own a dog or surf/kite sail, take notice:
    Dear Friends of GGNRA:

    As we move into November, we wanted to give you an update on the next steps in the Dog Management Planning and rulemaking process in the GGNRA.
    Proposed Rule for Dog Management at Golden Gate National Recreation Area

    Since the completion of the comment period on the Supplemental Dog Management Plan/EIS (SEIS) in February 2014, we have been working on evaluating the comments received and preparing a Proposed Rule. The Proposed Rule is the operational reflection of the NPS preferred alternative from the SEIS. It translates the regulatory aspects of the preferred alternative into a proposed rule, unique to the GGNRA. It is informed by an analysis of the comments received on the SEIS, as well as further staff review. It will describe in detail where and how people will be able to enjoy the park with their dogs – on and off-leash – as well as parameters for responsible dog walking within the park. The document will be less than 40 pages long.

    Release of the Proposed Rule
    The Proposed Rule is currently undergoing review in the NPS Washington office and Department of the Interior. We have decided out of respect for everyone who is interested in the dog management issue at Golden Gate to defer release of the Proposed Rule until after the holiday season. Therefore, it is probable that the proposed regulation will be released in early January 2016 for a 60-day public review period.

    Public Review
    During the public review period, we will schedule a series of public informational meetings in the three counties in which the park is situated to help assure that interested stakeholders understand what the Proposed Rule contains, how it fits in the 14 year dog management planning process, and how people can submit comments. In addition to the scheduled public informational meetings, we will be pleased to provide briefings on request from interested groups.

    Next Steps
    Following completion of the public comment period on the Proposed Rule, we will evaluate comments to complete a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and issue a Record of Decision, which is a summary of the overall dog management process and an explanation of why NPS has chosen the action it is taking. Thirty days after the FEIS is approved, a Record of Decision will be signed, and a Final Rule for Dog Management at Golden Gate National Recreation will be issued. This process is expected to be completed in late 2016.

    To access the SEIS and other dog management planning documents, go to: http://www.nps.gov/goga/learn/management
    For questions, please contact GGNRA Director of Communications, Howard Levitt, at 415 561-5730 or howard_levitt@nps.gov.

  43. Well that was long. Whatever you want to call it, people need to leave a lighter footprint and not be spewing garbage and dog feces everywhere. It’s not too much to ask.

  44. @Ed. How can you seriously argue that Ocean Beach is not an urban beach? It is beach, in an urban setting. Period. Come by some time on a sunny day when the winds are light. There are people everywhere at the beach! People are going to bring food to enjoy with the views. With food comes wrappers and a need for trash cans. Urban beaches can be ‘pristine’ and still be recreational areas with proper care. Visit any of the very crowded beaches in Laguna during the summer. You will find stunning, clean urban beaches that are properly maintained by a managing authority (City of Laguna) that actually cares about its beaches. What should be done is a line by line audit of the NPS Bay Area budget. Then, let’s prioritize the spending in a way that benefits the general public, not the highly ranking employees of the NPS and its countless re-education programs.

    Of course, San Franciscans, Bay Area residents, and tourists need to respect the area by not littering. US Parks Police (the guys with guns) are too permissive or intimidated by visitors to the beach, especially at night. Just ticket 100 people for littering, possession of glass bottles, and illegal fires and the word will get out.

  45. Yet another example of the astonishing incompetent management of Ocean Beach. Park Police and Rangers should do what they’re best at. Writing tickets. Crack down on those who trash the beach.

  46. It doesn’t matter to me what we call it. But garbage people create lots of garbage. People to come and drink and eat junk food and give dogs free reign and camp out and write graffiti and live the whole hedonistic American experience that is so prized, and I despise these people. No one I have ever seriously associated with had any problem packing their trash out of natural areas. We did it on every camping trip and hike we ever went on. I’m for whatever leads to the absence of garbage (both actual and human) in what is obviously a natural area.

  47. This is a very interesting issue. I bring the focus back to whether the presence of these trash cans are creating more of a problem than they are solving. I have a hunch that even if you were to place full size dumpsters in place of those trash cans (obviously not an option for aesthetic reasons), the dumpsters would fill up quickly and overflow with garbage, pallets and used furniture. So I don’t believe that larger trash cans will solve the problem- the presence of these bins just encourages people to use them, and there is always more garbage than the bins can handle, particularly on weekends. So larger doesn’t mean better, and it certainly is less aesthetically pleasing.

    Psychologically, people just feel entitled to leave their garbage on the promenade next to the trash cans, once the trash cans are filled up. The people dumping their garbage next to those bins are not just people coming back off the beach. I see a lot of people cleaning out their cars/campers.

  48. @ Hans: I respectfully but firmly disagree.
    1. Public locations — beaches, parks, streets, etc. — that have adequate garbage receptacles and adequate pick-up are invariably cleaner than those that do not. In places with high user density (ex: NY beaches or SCal beaches) I believe that pick-up often happens several times a day on weekends. This is the necessary action to take given the reality of the number of people in the area.
    2. The issue of dumping a couch or other such inappropriate waste is unrelated, is a separate (and ticket-able) offense, and is already addressed through laws on the books in SF.
    3. The discussion points raised re “national park” v. “public beach” are simply not square with the issue: this is a national park that is also a public beach, and to treat it as a national park for purposes or garbage is to intentionally be blind to the reality that is is a public beach.

    Thanks for the continued dialogue.

  49. JZJ – thanks for your polite input. As I mentioned before, I don’t have the answer. All i know is that when I show up on Saturday mornings for garbage clean up, the promenade trash bins are overflowing with trash from the night before, and there is trash on the ground all around the trash bins. That doesn’t look great, it is unsanitary, and the wind tends to blow all the trash around. I never thought I would say this, but maybe the answer is to ban the bon-fires if we want to deal with the trash issue, as these two issues seem to be directly related.

    If we can’t successfully encourage people to take away their own trash, we could 1) put in larger trash/recycle bins, and/or 2) pay the garbage service to perform extra cleanup on key days. I have my doubts about either approach but it is apparent from the comments of people that a no-trash-bin approach will not be accepted. But these options do cost more money. If we don’t have the money to pay for the larger trash bins, or the money to pay for the additional garbage pickup, then we may have to just keep things the way they are, and not complain.

  50. Just brainstorming ideas that might be acceptable to all- what about delivering one or two large garbage/recycling/compost dumpsters right on the beach every Friday night, or whenever the bon-fire people are active? Remove the dumpsters at the end of the night so they don’t create an eyesore. Charge a premium to each fire-pit renter to help subsidize the delivery and removal of the dumpsters. Maybe do this on really busy beach days too. The idea is to make it extremely easy for the bon-fire partiers to have a place to dump their boxes, bottles, cans, plastic bags and pallets.

  51. @Hans: I’m glad you place a value on aesthetics. I think you’re right – dumpsters would be ugly and abused. As a side point, there needs to be a serious crackdown on campers in that area, by whatever means are available. Probably new regulations need to be made to address it, maybe something as simple as a height limit but then you would get the vans. I’m so tired of trashy people leaving garbage everywhere. Thank you for doing pickup. Maybe we need a dedicated beat cop on the promenade, to make sure dumping is not happening, and keep an eye on all the other types of illegal activities that go on in that vicinity, heighten public safety.

  52. I don’t know where people get the idea that because it is a public beach (instead of a ‘national park’ or whatever this absurd argument is, trash should be accepted ? Is that the argument? Why do we equate public with trash and garbage? I’m unclear what is being argued. Either way, we want it as pristine as possible!

  53. A dedicated DPW truck for the entire length of Ocean Beach working swing or grave shift with police backup as needed might re-train beach users. A half dozen more on the same shifts are needed in Golden Gate Park.

  54. They are just too dang lazy to empty the bins, and keeptheplace nice. There are lazy, greedy, corrupt, and never should have been left reonsible for the beach.

  55. I wish we could take the money out of the homeless budget ($200M a year or whatever it is) and just put it straight in the parks for cleanliness and upkeep. Most of the garbage comes from homeless anyway. Like double DPW budget for streets and put the rest in parks. We have like three *billion* dollars more a year to work with, right? The difference…can you imagine? Two hundred million dollars? A year. To the parks? I’m not convinced people are too concerned with the homeless’ well being, we just want them out of sight and out of mind. If their messes could be cleaned up, it would go a long way toward satisfying people. We could abandon the mission of finding meaning in life for every homeless person who passes through SF, or whatever it is we are trying to accomplish, and just focus on the mess they are leaving behind. I think more than a majority of people would be happy.

  56. I wish DPW would implement something I would call ‘neighborhood rovers,’ These would be people that would drive endlessly around the neighborhoods taking notes of issues (trash, graffiti, etc) and reporting them through 311 for cleanup. I literally have probably reported about 1000 service requests a year for the last 3-5 years. I do probably five a day, every day – not joking. Someone from the city needs to take my job. It has gotten to be too much. I am inspired by the success of the 311 mobile app – people seem to be using it a fair amount. But there are horrible stretches of Geary that have gone unrepaired for a decade, despite numerous requests for repair. Meanwhile random streets are resurfaced, that have almost no traffic. There are crosswalks that are almost invisible from fading, in the midst of “Vision Zero” that can be fixed in a half hour. There is garbage being left on the streets everywhere, constantly, daily, all the time, in my neck of the woods. I really really desire that the city departments get more *proactive* rather than relying entirely on complaints, because I am getting exhausted. It’s somewhat offensive that these departments take so little initiative, with all our new $.

  57. This is deliberate, and not the clueless move that it appears. A wilderness is a lot less expensive to manage. And once the trash mounts, their solution will be to complete the conversion of Ocean Beach in to the “natural zone” that the General Management Plan now classifies it as. And then as the trash mounts, it will “justify” the removal of people (and dogs) completely. It’s called a set up for failure, and this is the management strategy of this NPS in this urban recreation area.

    Special thanks must go out to the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the private non-profit that bestows millions of dollars on the GGNRA. Of those millions, not a penny goes towards maintenance. Only capital improvements and restorations, visitor centers, interpretive exhibits and gift shops. And then all those projects compete for already stretched maintenance and operational budgets that only come from congressional appropriations. The parks stretched resources are now being siphoned off to maintain all the Conservancy’s fancy projects. This is why the NPS has an $11.5 billion maintenance backlog. This is why the NPS had to cut its full time maintenance staff from 11 to just 3 in 2013. This is why they want to charge kids $35 to have a bonfire. And this is why the NPS wants to get YOU out of THEIR park.

    Way to make the NPS and our parks more relevant to the people, Jon Jarvis! Manage them in a way that makes them unusable! Very crafty!

  58. I think once we start entertaining these arguments that the trash bin removal policy was either a deliberate malevolent act by Park management, or part of some broader diabolical scheme, or that the policy was implemented without any thought or consideration about the consequences, we have “jumped the shark”. These theories just don’t seem logical, and they are not constructive for fixing the problem- how to effectively eliminate garbage on the beach and promenade. Yes some public employees are overpaid and incompetent, but they have to be part of the solution. Thanks for listening.

  59. @ Hans…..

    Public employees are indeed the answer. Paying for them and prioritizing them is the answer! Not cutting them as the population of SF continues to grow. and the GGNRA requires more resources, not less! Removing trashcans represents an NPS ethos that somehow Ocean Beach is a wilderness, and people shouldn’t produce trash, and should have the means and mindset that make them pack out everything they “pack in”. But OB (and the rest of the GGNRA) is not a wilderness. It’s a busy urban beach and urban recreation area that requires RESOURCES to make it function for the people it was set aside to serve. The NPS should be held accountable for policies that set the GGNRA up for failure. I hate to tell you, but the loss of maintenance staff is a CHOICE that the NPS is making because of budget and funding schemes that they’ve decided to pursue. See the “Centennial Challenge” for the goals of Jon Jarvis–to institute a permanent private funding stream that still won’t pay a penny for maintenance and operations, but will instead build pretty things that will essentially be window dressing, belying the dysfunction that really exists. A GGNRA that you can look at but not use. And look to the General Management Plan to see how this NPS has decided to administer the GGNRA. Most of OB and the entire GGNRA are being converted in to “natural zones” to be managed for dramatically reduced visitation. Because it’s less expensive. Ocean Beach is being made less usable by this NPS. That’s not jumping the shark. That’s telling it like it is.

  60. I reviewed the Centennial Challenge you cited. Can you help me find the support for your argument that private donations will only pay for expansion and not for maintenance and operations?

  61. Hi Hans,

    The Centennial Challenge is just Jarvis’ overarching plan for the entire system going in to the “next” 100 years of the NPS. He wants a permanent private funding endowment. The public-private partnership scheme has been tested and utilized fully in the GGNRA, because of the proximity of so many wealthy people/corporations in this area who are willing to pony up for the park. So, the model of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is specific to the GGNRA, but a dream for the wider system. I have met with the Conservancy and asked them flat out if all the money they raise will pay for maintenance and operations and they say an unapologetic “NO”. And when the group Save Our Recreation asked park service staff why the Conservancy wasn’t paying to help maintain the fire rings, SOR was told by GGNRA staff that it’s hard to fundraise for maintenance. So they don’t. You can call the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, or go to their website to see what their role is. They are clear: capital improvements, restorations, volunteer and educational programs. But what they don’t tell you is that their “enhancements” to the GGNRA require OUR tax dollars to maintain. So the GGNRA has to continually do more and more with stagnant and shrinking appropriated budgets. So it’s pretty safe to say that the funds used to empty garbage cans at Ocean Beach are now being used to empty garbage cans and maintain more high profile locations in other parts of the GGNRA. Robbing Peter to pay Paul as it were. And the influx of private money also gives Congress (especially a public land-hostile GOP Congress) an avenue to weasel out of their responsibility to adequately fund our public lands. It’s a sad formula for those who rely on these precious open spaces to make life in the densely populated Bay Area more livable. The public should be unhappy, and should hold the NPS and elected officials like Pelosi accountable.

  62. Free Voice is absolutely correct. Anyone who has been following the evolution of the General Management Plan over the last 10 years, or so, will see the NPS (and its private supporters) are trying to slowly change an urban recreational area to a wilderness-like National Park. People need to wake up. It is much easier to “maintain” a wilderness–just let it be. As for those of us who routinely pick up trash on the beach while there with our dogs or kids, I guess we had better be prepared to carry the collected trash uphill to our homes, where we pay for garbage services. In a perfect world there would be no “trashy” people, as other posters have called them. However, I’ve lived just a few blocks from the beach and have been using it a few times a week for nearly 20 years. Folks leaving trash in public areas is not going to change just because the cans are gone. And I agree it is a set up for NPS to say no dogs and more limited access to people after targeting the “experiment areas” on dog-friendly areas of the GGNRA–Baker Beach and the north end of OB.

  63. Thanks RAR….

    People should also be paying attention to the frequent and free use of the bogus term “Golden Gate National Parks”. According to Nancy Pelosi’s chiefs of staff, it’s not for any “nefarious purpose” but rather just used by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (and the GGNRA) as a way to “elevate the status” of the GGNRA for fundraising purposes. Never mind that not a single site within the GGNRA is designated as a National Park. The Conservancy has even taken to using this fake moniker in their fund raising materials and tax filings! And the GGNRA is freely using it too, even though Pelosi’s 2008 attempt to actually change the GGNRA’s name in Congress failed. That name change would have removed “recreation” altogether. Instead, this NPS and this Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy continue to use a name for the GGNRA that doesn’t even exist. I guess we are supposed to rethink our desires and needs for the GGNRA, and just accept that the GGNRA should be managed the same as Yellowstone and Yosemite??? The GGNRA has creeped dramatically away from it’s foundational mission. Maintaining Ocean Beach and other beloved sites for access should be paramount! Better maintenance leads to better stewardship.

  64. Strongly agree with @Hans that “once we start entertaining these arguments that the trash bin removal policy was either a deliberate malevolent act by Park management, or part of some broader diabolical scheme, or that the policy was implemented without any thought or consideration about the consequences, we have ‘jumped the shark'” – couldn’t have said it any better. Though I don’t think it’s the first time we’ve jumped the shark, tbh.

  65. what you call “jumping the shark”, i call bad policy and unintended consequences. if we want to solve the woes of NPS management of the GGNRA, it’s good to understand what’s going on at the most basic level. to fund or not to fund. that is the question.

  66. FREE VOICE- I just don’t believe that the decision to remove the trash cans was made based solely on a broader strategy by the NPS to cut maintenance costs, and made with the clear understanding that by doing this it will result in a dirtier beach area. I think that is where we may disagree. I also don’t agree with your statement – “Folks leaving trash in public areas is not going to change just because the cans are gone.” They label this as an experiment, and I think they want to see if the public can be trained to modify their behavior and clean up after themselves. It may or may not work, but that sounds reasonable. If it turns out to be a failure, as you predict, then they will put back the cans.

    It sounds like your basic complaint is that the park service is underfunded and mismanaged. That might be true and I can think of a lot of government agencies which suffer from that condition.

    We may actually agree on the priorities of where and how our limited tax dollars should be spent with regards to maintaining the beach and other public areas, but I gotta say the tone of your rhetoric is a little off-putting.

  67. Hans, first you attribute a comment to me that I am fairly certain I did not make. Not sure who did say it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me. The piece clearly states that the park service’s response was that there aren’t the resources and they need to reprioritize where the limited resources are going to best use. I didn’t make that up. The park service is citing the lack of resources. Sure….ok, It’s an “experiment”. They are allegedly hoping that people will get their Yellowstone on and learn to pack out their trash so that the park service doesn’t have to empty trash cans for a growing population. This at a beach surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. Trying to train a city to keep its parks and beaches clean by removing the resources that make that possible seems bizarre, as does this idea that Ocean Beach is somehow aesthetically more pleasing without the cans at each stairwell. I’m sorry you find this information off-putting. Don’t blame the messenger. I say these things from the past several years of trying to address access problems with the GGNRA, and meeting with officials, conservancy staff and some of the very people who helped create the GGNRA. We have a serious problem on our hands. We can agree to disagree….but I don’t think there is a reason to find the fact that I’m saying what I’m saying somehow the problem here. If we address why there are budget woes, perhaps we can then fix them and get congress to do what they are supposed to do and adequately fund the GGNRA. If we can properly address why there is a broad push to limit access to the GGNRA to thousands of people visa vi the General Management Plan, Dog Management Plan, and the other lower profile plans like fire rings and trash can removal, we might be able to address the real problems. Take care.

  68. Um I meant vis a vis….iPhone too small. And post won’t allow corrections. : /

  69. “They are allegedly hoping that people will get their Yellowstone on and learn to pack out their trash so that the park service doesn’t have to empty trash cans for a growing population. This at a beach surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people. Trying to train a city to keep its parks and beaches clean by removing the resources that make that possible seems bizarre, as does this idea that Ocean Beach is somehow aesthetically more pleasing without the cans at each stairwell. I’m sorry you find this information off-putting”

    Free Voice I don’t have a problem with your opposition to the removal of the trash bins and your broader policy arguments, whether they are correct or not,, I don’t know. I am not an expert on all the budgetary details and agendas that you allude to, nor was I present at all these meetings between you and the GGNRA. What I am trying to say is that the way you say it makes you sound a little irritated and conspiratorial, and this lessens the likelihood that you will create the change that you want. My basic inclination is to distrust what you are telling me based on the way you are expressing it.

  70. I’m not convinced it’s my “tone” that bothers you. Tone is notoriously impossible to determine from social media posts. And it’s a pretty unfortunate place to get hung up when the facts clearly support what I’m saying. I’ve got no issue with you, and you can take it or leave it. There are quite a few other posts with way more “tone”….but I don’t see any of those being questioned. How is what I’m saying “conspiratorial”??? Public land policy and funding decisions have impacts. There are consequences for poor policy decisions and chronic underfunding exacerbated by continuous addition of capital improvements that are paid for by private dollars. We are feeling this big time in the GGNRA, which has been a real test case for the efficacy of privatization (the public private partnership) for a unit of the National Park system. And there are consequences. I’m really sorry you find the truth–and my justified irritation at bad policy–as off putting in any way. I hope that people will educate themselves. I can’t possibly convince anyone here to do anything other than that. Start asking the park service hard questions. Start asking the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy hard questions. And start asking Pelosi hard questions. Until we all start doing that, there will be no change for the better.

  71. Send the Feds packing! Ideally, the Feds give up the land to the City.

  72. Hans, I would be interested in your take on the situation after you read the NPS general management plan for GGNRA. It’s a long and unwieldy blueprint for the next generation of managing these areas. I think you will find much of the comments you disagree with on this post not so disagreeable. Here’s is my take. Removal of garbage cans is no experiment. It is a trend under way in various parts of the GGNRA. Fort Funston has lost garbage cans and so did Baker Beach. Isn’t it reasonable to expect some level of maintenance at a city park? These are recreation areas that primarily serve people, and more than any other in the entire national park property system. Why would it be reasonable for people to expect garbage maintenance in Golden Gate Park but not at Ocean Beach just across the street? Ocean Beach has been a popular playground for San Franciscans and visitors for more than a century. Why in 2015 is there all of sudden justification to stop maintaining it? According to the GGNRA general plan NPS plans significant hiring — something like 46 new positions. But they are not maintenance staff. They are hiring cashiers, admin, rangers. They are going to build stores and cafes to sell you stuff to take to the beach. But they are not going to put out a garbage for all the wrappers around the meal they just sold you. Do they really expect tourists to trot their trash back their AirBnB hosts’ house? GGNRA is a recreation area and it was designed to have maintenance. It is part of the agreement NPS signed on for. And the comments by FreeVoice are spot on. The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the wealthiest in the nation by a longshot — their balance sheet is larger than the GGNRA operating budget. They can’t pony up $90K so two GGNRA maintenance staff can clean up after a bonfiire?

  73. Thank you. I hope people really start questioning the wisdom of allowing a private entity to “fund” our shared spaces. Ronald Reagan and James Watt promoted the public private partnership as a way to shrink government. Starve an agency, accuse it of failing and then say that only private money can save it. The “small government” play book. And now it’s being advanced by so-called progressives in their support of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. See; Nancy Pelosi and Jared Huffman. We are witnessing the end result on display with every cut back.

  74. (Not that this is relevant, but the last comment gives me a chance to quote Republic adviser, small-government advocate, and all-around weird guy Grover Norquist: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”)

  75. Thank you, I will try to read the general management plan. But allow me to play devil’s advocate based on your arguments above. Assuming it is true that the general plan envisions more revenue generating endeavors, then isn’t it also true that the National Park Service management understands the need to provide a product/service/experience that tourists will want to come to visit and spend their $$? I think even the most robotic capitalist who feels no moral responsibility towards the earth recognizes that if they operate a tourist business, and their business environment is unreasonably dirty, then their businesses won’t hit their revenue targets. They will naturally solicit feedback from the consumer, and make changes.

    My point is simply that I don’t subscribe to the idea of some kind of nefarious agenda regarding the removal of the garbage cans. If the beaches are unreasonably dirty after these experiments, then I fully expect that changes will be made, the garbage cans will return. Even in a government bureaucracy, eventually people have to answer for their decisions.

    As I mentioned at the outset of this discussion, I have regularly participated in Ocean Beach cleanups on Saturday mornings. Through that experience I have the opinion that there is a problem with people dumping their trash on the promenade. The promenade is kind of nasty. Relatively speaking, the beaches themselves are clean in comparison to the promenade where trash piles up all around the over-flowing trash bins. I am of the opinion that the trash-can/garbage situation as it currently exists is not good, and I would like to see changes to improve that, if possible. The most obvious option is to add more trash bins, or add larger trash bins – but I conclude that doing so would probably not work because I think the trash cans are kind of a magnet for garbage. I also suspect that people would not be happy with larger trash and recycle bins for aesthetic reasons. I could be wrong.

    I absolutely agree with you that the operating budget should properly address cleanup. Maybe the optimum solution involves shifting more resources towards additional pickup/cleaning out the garbage bins after busy bon-fire nights. I don’t know how much more that would cost. I am open to any and all ideas that will more effectively keep the areas clean, with the understanding that the park service is like any organization that operates within a limited budget. If we would achieve a better result by implementing policies that put more responsibility on the consumer/citizen to clean up after themselves, then I’m ok with that as long as it works.

  76. Hans, I don’t subscribe to the nefarious agenda either. It’s a cost-savings move. Period. I just think it’s the wrong move and I question why the maintenance of garbage cans is not a higher priority. The GGNRA has had a dismal couple of years now with their relationships with our communities. It’s not just Ocean Beach. The news is littered with stories about high tensions between GGNRA and just about every community adjacent to the lands. It has not always been like this. There needs to be transparency and better efforts to work together. I’ve been to a number of the community meetings. The National Park Service makes no concessions and defends its positions to the death. Yet they don’t listen, they don’t compromise unless they are forced to with the real threat of a lawsuit.

  77. I don’t know why my info is being taken as nefarious or conspiratorial. It’s politics Hans. And politics are about money. And decisions made about how to fund our public lands have consequences. Cause and effect. And current GGNRA policies and decisions are being shaped by funding constraints. and politics. The GGNRA is profoundly changing…..

  78. It’s not completely ridiculous for them to ask us to pack it in, pack it out. It’s common sense and they ask visitors to do the same at Fort Mason in the Great Meadow. Yeah, it’s a more “Yosemite-esque” NPS rule, but seriously, how hard is it to find a dumpster offsite and dump your junk or bring it home. Our laziness begs for convenience, but our conscience knows better than to assume we’re going to be taken care of. Grow up. Federal budgets get smaller and smaller every year (NPS included). It’s easy to point the finger and say “well if you hired more people and put more trash cans out all will be fixed!”. That’s not the reality. Those cans would overflow too. If you want to keep the beach fires going, sack up and treat it the way it should be treated.

    Also, the city doesn’t want to take Ocean Beach back after handing it over to NPS. Good luck trying to convince them! They know the problems, as they have been going on predating the NPS ownership.

  79. Lg- find a dumpster offsite… So you want the city or other entity to provide the trash pickup that the nps is choosing not to do?!

    Overall, I think they need to replace the cans, maybe make the recycle bins locked down to keep the scavengers out, and so more often pickups. Keep our beach and ocean clean… Don’t make it harder.

  80. They have limited resources. There’s a bit of arrogance in people thinking they are total morons and have no idea what they’re doing, and ‘how could they be so stupid’ and whatnot. The worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work and they put the cans back. People need to calm down, a bit.

  81. Suggest that by creating an arbitrary “experiment,” the NPS is in violation of health and EPA standards and needs to complete an Environmental Impact Review on the abdication of their agreed upon and accepted role as garbage collectors before they foist anymore of their illogical access rules on us San Franciscans.
    This “experiment” is flawed from the design up.
    Just like their arbitrary measures of reporting of dog ticketing, the NPS have no starting baseline of garbage to measure from.
    Time for SF BOS to actually do something and seize control of the coastline back from the fun haters.

  82. In Barcelona, there is this underground trash collecting system. There were separate trash receptacles; one for recyclables(glass and plastic), trash, and paper. I wonder if it would work for this city?

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